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Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sutra (aphorism) and Twitter

    The second part of the series on Mindfulness, Compassion and Non-violence is ready. But, I plan to share thoughts on other topics also, in between those posts. Thank you.  

I was thinking about the fact that the rishis who “saw” the Vedas, put them down for posterity before there was writing. How did they do it? One of the methods they used was to express their ideas in a condensed form, called sutra.

Common meaning of the word sutra is a thread. It also stands for a tightly woven thread. In English, an equivalent word is aphorism. By definition, a Sutra or an aphorism has to be a condensed cryptic statement. Obviously, these were philosophical statements which will, by nature, require explanation, elaboration.

It is easier to remember a few words in a cryptic sentence such as “satyameva jayate” (Truth alone wins) than a paragraph on what satya is. The sages wanted to express concepts in as few words as possible so that the concepts are easy to remember, recite and pass on to students and future generations.

One definition (?Vayu Purana) in Sanskrit says: Sutra is one which is made of minimum letters, precise, unambiguous, presenting the gist of many thoughts, and faultless that makes sense. In Tamil language it is “சுருங்க சொல்லல் விளங்கவைத்தல்” which means “to explain with the least possible words”.

When thinking about this, it occurred to me that Twitter is a modern version of sutra. But there is a huge difference. Twitter is used for sending messages with emotionally charged words which stimulate the lower parts of our brain and evoke unhealthy emotions. Sutra (an aphorism) was used to express profound thoughts and stimulate the upper parts of our brain and make us think.

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